The fundamental principle of priesthood is condescension.
And those that receive power in the priesthood through condescension then have power to bring others through veils.
One way of describing priesthood is to provide veil experiences for others. It is by condescension that the veil is parted for us as individuals, and it is by condescension that we also have power to lead and bring others through veils.
It is through these principles we can understand the priesthoods of both Adam and Eve.
Two Great Condescensions
When the Angel is guiding Nephi through his great revelatory vision he asks the question: “Knowest thou the condescension of God?” (1 Nephi 11: 16).
And Nephi is shown two figures to this question. He is shown the condescension of the Mother of God and of the Son of God.
The condescension of Mary as the one that would come from a heavenly sphere to give birth to the Son of God.
And Christ, the one that would give spiritual birth to all of God’s Children.
Their condescensions of Mary would require her blood in child birth, and the condescension of Christ would require his blood in atonement.
These are the two archetypes of condescension. The Mother, and the Savior.
The Priesthood of Adam
Christ as the Archetype
“He that ascended up on high, as also he descended below all things, in that he comprehended all things, that he might be in all and through all things, the light of truth” (D&C 88:6).
Christ is an archetype in all things, but I’d like to focus on the condescension of Christ as his priesthood archetype.
As the scripture above reveals, Christ descended below all things. No one has or is capable of condescending lower that Christ. This makes Him the great archetype.
In the mystery of the atonement, none descended lower than Christ – suffering a fullness of darkness and for the full depth of the fall of man.
Christ’s willingness to suffer, to take upon himself the full effects of a broken law, produced a pain that is incomprehensible to our mortal, fallen minds. It is this sacrifice for others, when comprehended, cause us to kneel and bow because of his willingness to take on sins of others. The revelation of his suffering will bring us to worship him for eternity.
Christ is the great High Priest. For those of the Sons of God that desire to follow in the path of Christ are called to be in a priest-hood. They are those that have covenanted to follow after the type of Christ – they, too, desire to condescend.
What this means is priesthood, in whatever degree, is an association (or quorum, or ‘hood’) of men that also desire to condescend in order to serve others. To take upon themselves pain, and suffering, and discomfort, and sacrifice their own lives in order to bring others to Christ.
Men condescend through repentance. Mighty repentance. The kind of repentance that is working out your salvation through fear and trembling” (Mormon 9: 27).
This is the kind of repentance Enos submits to in order to be prepared to covenant on behalf of his people. (Enos 1).
In fact, all of the prophets are archetypes of repentance and condescension in order to bring the power of salvation to their families, people, and nations. All of them.
Condescension is the path of priesthood power. It is the willingness, in the Spirit of the Redeemer, to suffer on behalf of a people so that you have power to bring that people to the veil to enter back in to the presence of the Lord.
By their willingness to take upon themselves the personal sacrifices necessary of not following after their own wills, but instead desiring to do the will of the Father in all things, and suffer all things for their families and people because of this path, they are given power to bring salvation to others. (Helaman 10).
Just as Christ exemplified the path through his atoning sacrifice, a man who has the priesthood will also show people how to come to Christ by demonstrating how he also received the priesthood. He becomes a pattern for his people. He shows them that through mighty repentance, humbling himself before God, and consecrating his life to bring salvation to others is the way you part a veil and receive the endowment of the priesthood. This is the doctrine taught in Alma 13.
“And those priests were ordained after the order of his Son, in a manner that thereby the people might know in what manner to look forward to his Son for redemption…”
The manner they received their ordination became an instructive pattern for others to also be received into the same redemption.
What was this pattern? How were they ordained?
It was “on account of their exceeding faith and good works; in the first place being left to choose good or evil; therefore they having chosen good, and exercising exceedingly great faith…
and would not harden their hearts…
and it was on account of their exceeding faith and repentance, and their righteousness before God, they choosing to repent and work righteousness…” (Alma 13: 1-13).
Notice that their ordination to the priesthood was predicated on the process and type of repentance, faith, and works of righteousness. It was not a right given to them because of their age or by virtue of being a member of the Church. It was an endowment because of the sanctification they received in preparation for the order they would enter into.
The High Priests were examples of the path into the presence of the Lord, thereby showing others how to enter into the presence of the Lord..
What is a High Priest?
A man becomes a High Priest by coming into the presence of the Lord while in the flesh. Just as Christ came into the presence of his father and rent the veil of the temple through his sacrifice and obedience, so do those that hold His priesthood. They become High Priests when they enter into the rest of the Lord. And because they have rent the veil themselves, they then have power to bring others to that place so they can come through the veils themselves. This is what it means to be a Servant. (Jacob 5: 70-75; D&C 1: 6; D&C 84: 36).
Genesis 14 JST
And thus, having been approved of God, he (Melchizedek) was ordained an high priest after the order of the covenant which God made with Enoch,…
It being after the order of the Son of God; which order came, not by man, nor the will of man; neither by father nor mother; neither by beginning of days nor end of years; but of God;
And it was delivered unto men by the calling of his own voice, according to his own will, unto as many as believed on his name.
For God having sworn unto Enoch and unto his seed with an oath by himself; that every one being ordained after this order and calling should have power, by faith, to break mountains, to divide the seas, to dry up waters, to turn them out of their course;
To put at defiance the armies of nations, to divide the earth, to break every band, to stand in the presence of God; to do all things according to his will, according to his command, subdue principalities and powers; and this by the will of the Son of God which was from before the foundation of the world” (Genesis 14 JST: 1-32).
This is the order of the priesthood. We may be “ordained”, it is true (and this will be explored later), but the power of the priesthood is an endowment from God’s own voice. It is the endowment one receives after being brought through the veil while in the flesh.
And for a person to receive the power of the priesthood of being a High Priest, they must be ordained from on high, and receive the oaths of the Priesthood from God’s own mouth.
Now consider more of Alma 13 in context of Genesis 14.
“And thus being called by this holy calling, and ordained unto the high priesthood of the holy order of God, to teach his commandments unto the children of men, that they also might enter into his rest— (Alma 13: 13).
It is treading the path of condescension that one becomes a High Priest after the order of the Son of God.
And it is through treading this path that they bring others into this structure.
Called Through Ordination
When a man is ordained to the priesthood he does not yet possess priesthood power (actual priesthood); he is called to receive it. Ordination gives him the right to officiate in the rites of the priesthood. But it does not guarantee him power to perform ordinances that are recognized by both heaven and earth. It gives him the authority to give ordinances recognized by earth.
D&C Section 95 teaches this principle very clearly. Consider the following:
“But behold, verily I say unto you, that there are many who have been ordained among you, whom I have called but few of them are chosen…
The first thing we learn that ordination is a calling. It is a call to receive priesthood.
When I was ordained to the Melchizedek Priesthood when I was 19 years old, I was called to be in an order, but was not yet chosen.
Unfortunately, as the verse points out, few that are ordained to the priesthood are chosen.
And because they are not chosen they continue to walk in darkness.
“They who are not chosen have sinned a very grievous sin, in that they are walking in darkness at noon-day….(D&C 95: 5-6).
Most Ordained Priesthood Holders Are Not Chosen
First, it is important to remember that those that are ordained are the ones that are called.
Joseph Smith gives us a great revelation from Liberty Jail:
Behold, there are many called, but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen?
Because their (those that are ordained) hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men, that they do not learn this one lesson—
That the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness.
That they may be conferred upon us, it is true (through ordination); but when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man.
We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose (because of ordination), they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.
Hence many are called, but few are chosen” (D&C 121: 34 – 40).
This is sobering.
We learn a number of things in these passages, but two to make special note of is that men suppose they have authority when they are ordained.
But authority (the Lord doesn’t make a distinction between authority and power in the scriptures) only comes through receiving the power of heaven. Authority only comes from the principle of righteousness.
Because of this, most of those that are ordained to the Priesthood walk in darkness because they are not yet chosen.
How Does an Ordained Priesthood Holder Become Chosen?
The revelation in D&C 95 continues:
Yea, verily I say unto you, I gave unto you a commandment that you should build a house, in the which house I design to endow those whom I have chosen with power from on high” (D&C 95: 8).
Those that are chosen are those that are endowed with actual power through the ordinances of the temple.
But this is not just a ritualistic / physical endowment. It is the revelatory endowment.
As discussed above, a High Priest is someone that comes into the rest of the Lord while in mortality.
This is the purpose of the temple. To teach us how to come into the presence in mortality. It is to teach us how to come into the rest of the Lord. It is to pierce the veil while in the flesh.
And this is what it means to be chosen. It is those that are being prepared and endowed with the spirit and revelatory experiences that are preparing them for, and bringing them through the veil.
To be chosen is to receive the actual spiritual experiences the physical ordinances are imitating.
D&C 121 continues to teach about those that are actually chosen by describing the following:
They are full of charity for all men.
Virtue garnishes their thoughts unceasingly
Their confidence waxes strong in the presence of God
The Holy Ghost becomes their constant companion, and the power the spirit flows to them with out compulsory means.
And the doctrine of the priesthood distills upon their soul.
In other words, they are learning the doctrines and power of the priesthood by revelation. They are being endowed (D&C 121: 45-46).
This is the path of the chosen.
And it culminates by entering into the presence of the Lord.
This path and doctrine is taught explicitly in D&C 84.
Moses and the Veil
Moses first conversed with the Lord through the burning bush. He wasn’t in his presence, but he was being prepared.
A short time later, he was brought up into the presence of the Lord atop an unnamed mountain. This is the record of Moses chapter 1. He received blessings and revelation in this Second Comforter experience.
After being left to himself and tested by Satan he was brought again into the presence of the Lord and received an endowment of priesthood.
The record goes like this:
“And calling upon the name of God, he beheld his glory again, for it was upon him; and he heard a voice, saying: Blessed art thou, Moses, for I, the Almighty, have chosen thee, and thou shalt be made stronger than many waters; for they shall obey thy command as if thou wert God” (Moses 1: 25).
This is what Jospeh Smith called the fulness of the priesthood.
Moses learned through his own succession of endowments that the priesthood is the power that brings you into the presence of the Lord while in the flesh.
As Moses led the Children of Israel out of Egypt he then sought to bring them to the top of a mountain to receive the same priesthood – to be brought into the presence of the Lord while in the flesh.
This is the primary purpose of the priesthood – to bring you into the presence of the Father and Christ while in mortality.
In the revelation of D&C 84 Joseph Smith reveals much about priesthood in context of the Moses account.
“And this greater priesthood administereth the gospel and holdeth the key of the mysteries of the kingdom, even the key of the knowledge of God…”
This is the fundamental definition of priesthood. It is the key to the knowledge of God.
“The power and authority of the higher, or Melchizedek Priesthood, is to hold the keys of all the spiritual blessings of the church—
To have the privilege of receiving the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, to have the heavens opened unto them, to commune with the general assembly and church of the Firstborn, and to enjoy the communion and presence of God the Father, and Jesus the mediator of the new covenant” (D&C 107: 18 – 19).
And so Moses sought to endow the Children of Israel and prepare them to be brought into the presence of the Lord.
The account of Moses continues –
“And without the ordinances thereof, and the authority of the priesthood, the power of godliness is not manifest unto men in the flesh;
For without this no man can see the face of God, even the Father, and live…”
Now this Moses plainly taught to the children of Israel in the wilderness, and sought diligently to sanctify his people that they might behold the face of God;
But they hardened their hearts and could not endure his presence; therefore, the Lord in his wrath, for his anger was kindled against them, swore that they should not enter into his rest while in the wilderness, which rest is the fulness of his glory” (D&C 84: 19 – 24).
This is a great key!
We now learn that the rest of the Lord means being in the fulness of his glory while in the flesh.
This unlocks the Book of Mormon for us, especially Alma 13.
“And thus being called by this holy calling, and ordained unto the high priesthood of the holy order of God, to teach his commandments unto the children of men, that they also might enter into his rest—
Now they, after being sanctified by the Holy Ghost, having their garments made white, being pure and spotless before God, could not look upon sin save it were with abhorrence; and there were many, exceedingly great many, who were made pure and entered into the rest of the Lord their God.
And now, my brethren, I would that ye should humble yourselves before God, and bring forth fruit meet for repentance, that ye may also enter into that rest…
Now these ordinances were given after this manner, that thereby the people might look forward on the Son of God, it being a type of his order, or it being his order, and this that they might look forward to him for a remission of their sins, that they might enter into the rest of the Lord.
The doctrine of Alma 13 is tied to D&C 84. It can’t be understood with out the context and doctrine of Moses.
When the Children of Israel refused to come into the presence of the Lord the priesthood was removed from them. This, the higher priesthood, is the knowledge, ordinances, and keys to come into the presence of the Lord in mortality. Because of this rejection, the priesthood was removed from them along with the invitation to behold the glory of the Lord in this life.
This is referred to as “the provocation.”
Alma references it when he wrote:
“And now, my brethren, behold I say unto you, that if ye will harden your hearts ye shall not enter into the rest of the Lord; therefore your iniquity provoketh him that he sendeth down his wrath upon you as in the first provocation, yea, according to his word in the last provocation as well as the first, to the everlasting destruction of your souls; therefore, according to his word, unto the last death, as well as the first” (Alma 12: 36).
And Jacob also reference the same principle:
“Wherefore we labored diligently among our people, that we might persuade them to come unto Christ, and partake of the goodness of God, that they might enter into his rest, lest by any means he should swear in his wrath they should not enter in, as in the provocation in the days of temptation while the children of Israel were in the wilderness” (Jacob 1: 7).
And so this theme is throughout the Book of Mormon. The two primary invitations of the Book of Mormon is to be born again and enter into the rest of the Lord, which is to behold him in the flesh.
We learn that when we reject not coming into the presence of the Lord we are rejecting the priesthood.
The Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood
It is commonly interpreted that the reference to the oath and covenant of the priesthood is the oath and covenant itself. But this isn’t the case. It is only referencing some of the blessings and the pattern that one receives the oath and covenant.
The oath and covenants of the priesthood are the oath and covenants of the temple.
It is the endowment.
And the oath of the Melchizedek priesthood (there is no Aaronic oath) is an oath that God gives both men and women.
Both men and women enter into the oath and covenant and receive it individually.
They are both dressed in the robes of the Holy Priesthood.
They are both ordained and anointed to the same glory and promise.
They are both invited into the presence of the Lord while in the flesh.
Moses is a Pattern of Priesthood.
He first sanctifies himself to receive the Lord first for himself, he passes through the trials necessary to receive the oath of the priesthood from the Father that he will have power to command the elements. He was then prepared to bring others into the Lord’s presence.
And Christ is the great archetype of this priesthood process. He, too, received not a fullness at first, but received priesthood grace for grace and grace to grace. (D&C 93: 12 – 13)
The Savior went through the great condescension of the atonement so that he could bring all of God’s children through the veil.
Condescension and Power
Receiving priesthood is going through the process of condescension. Becoming sanctified so that we receive the revelations of the priesthood sufficient to bring us through the veil.
And by condescending, we receive power. By condescending we go through the same process as Moses. It is the same process of all the holy prophets in scripture.
This is the great principle of the priesthood. Whoever is the greatest will consider themselves the least. They are those that are willing to condescend the lowest. They are those that are willing to suffer anything on behalf of those they love and are called to bless.
Adam and his sons are called to go through a great condescension. They are called to receive priesthood.
They are called to enter into mighty repentance.
They are called to be the least and servant of all.
This is the pattern and nature of a true holder of the priesthood.
John may have captured this principle the best when he said:
“He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3: 30).
Why Are Men Ordained?
The answer to this question is imbedded in a verse in D&C Section 50 (also another great priesthood section.)
“He that is ordained of God and sent forth, the same is appointed to be the greatest, notwithstanding he is the least and the servant of all” (D&C 50: 26).
Men are ordained in the priesthood because they are called to be the least and servant of all.
This is the fundamental principle of the male priesthood.
They are to condescend and be the least. They are servants.
Even the principle of presiding means that they have stewardship to protect and to watch over. It is not an elevated status. It is the opposite – it is the status of a servant.
The ordination itself does not give priesthood. It is only an invitation. It is a calling. Men receive their calling through ordination, but they receive actual priesthood through the process of the endowment.
And the work of men is to sacrifice and condescend in order to bring their wife, children, and those in their stewardship back into the presence of the Lord.
They provide a veil experience for women.
And women provide veil experiences for men.
Together, their respective priesthoods are perfectly equal in power and authority.
And to understand more fully the eternal balance of men and women, and that one cannot be saved without the other, we must now explore the priesthood of Eve, and her daughters.